Why Does My Dog Whine In The Car?

do whining in the car

Dogs whine in the car because they are excited. Or because they feel unwell or worried. Going for a ride is great fun, especially if you are travelling to somewhere you love. So imagine how it feels getting into the car, when every single journey has the potential to take you to your favorite place. Some dogs aren’t such fans of travel. They might find the motion of the vehicle scary, or even get motion sickness when they are bumping along the road.. And perhaps they find socializing at the dog park intimidating, and the fear builds as they travel and don’t know if they are going to end up somewhere they want to be.


Why Does My Dog Whine In The Car?

Dogs whine in the car because they are either upset or anticipating something. And the thing they are waiting for might be good, causing excited whining, or scary, causing fearful whining. Some anxious pups are just generally noisy too, and it might not have been triggered directly by the drive.

In order to cure your dog of their car whining habit, you’ll first need to work out what the cause might be. Whether it’s excitement, illness, fear or general anxiety.

Travelling Is Exciting For Dogs

Your dog has no idea where he’s going today. Even if you think you’ve told him, chances are he didn’t understand or instantly forgot. So each time he jumps onto the back seat or climbs into the back of the truck, you could be off on an adventure to see his favorite people or visit his top place.

Each step you take towards his imagined final location ramps up the excitement to another level. Getting into the car, shutting the door, turning on the engine, beginning to move. You creep towards his goal, and the volume goes up.

Training an excited dog not to whine in the car

The solution to this problem is, I have to be honest, dull. It takes a few sessions, and wastes around an hour of your life. But you resolve it pretty quickly if you are committed, along with everyone else in the family.

Basically, every step you take in the car has to wait for silence. Each new action is delayed until your dog stops hyperventilating or letting out a parade of whining noises. Some dogs work out pretty quickly what is causing the journey to continue, others take a little longer to connect the dots. But they all get there in the end.

I mentally break down the process into something like the following steps:

  • Put your dog into the car
  • Climb into the driver’s seat
  • Turn the key in the ignition
  • Put the car into drive
  • Pull forward

Only take the next step when your dog has been quiet for a count of ten. If they start whining again, return to the previous step. You might find the first time you intend to go out that you don’t manage to leave the curbside, but things will improve quickly as long as you don’t ever pull away when your dog is being noisy.

That’s why it’s so important to only follow this process during a week when you know you don’t have to go anywhere important with your pup in tow.

Canine Car Sickness

Signs of travel sickness in dogs include swaying, whining and even frothing at the mouth. Very car sick dogs will sometimes throw up or even empty their bowels if feeling particularly upset.

Travel sickness is really common in puppies. I have had several young dogs that felt sick when the car moved, or in journeys of more than ten to fifteen minutes. Most of them grow out of this problem, or simply get used to the motion after a few trips in your vehicle.

If your pup doesn’t seem to be growing out of it, your veterinarian will be able to prescribe travel sickness medication for your dog.

dog whining in the car

Fear of the Car

Travel sickness can make a dog afraid of the car, but some dogs find other aspects of trips in your vehicle unsettling. In my experience the main causes are insecurity, unexpected movements and sounds, or proximity to something they find worrying.

To feel secure in the car your pup will need either somewhere they can stretch out and lay down, like the back seat or large space to the rear of the vehicle. You’ll need to put a blanket on the floor so it’s comfortable, and make sure the surface of a dog crate if you use one isn’t slippery and making them feel wobbly when they stand.

Some dogs are also unhappy being trapped in close proximity with other pets, and occasionally even people. If your dog is whining in the car when you’ve got a new passenger, or they are being made to share with an unfamiliar dog, this is potentially the cause. Giving them a physical visual barrier between the stranger and themselves will often resolve this one.

Travel Anxiety in Dogs

Anxious dogs whine. And they don’t need to be worried about the car, or concerned about the destination. They might just be a nervous soul with a delicate disposition. If your dog is generally shy or nervous then whining in the car is a logical but frustrating behavior.

General help with making your dog feel more secure and cheerful, whether in the vehicle or not, can decrease whining of this nature.

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website